Area coaches hoped to have their baseball programs in full swing by tomorrow, but inclement weather has prevented many clubs from practicing outdoors.
"We haven't been out very much at all," said Patterson coach Roger Wrenn.
His Clippers (20-1 last year) finished as the area's No. 2-ranked team after beating then-No. 15 Southern (16-4) for their fifth Maryland Scholastic Association B Conference title since 1982.
Perry Hall's Gators (21-0), the 4A state champ, ended the year as the top-ranked squad, also ahead of No. 3 McDonogh, the MSA A Conference champ.
The Gators have reached the finals three straight years, going 59-3. Perry Hall is favored in Baltimore County's 4A-3A League again, but don't tell coach Larry Butts. who graduated eight players.
"I think we're going to score some runs," said Butts, "but the key for us will be defense. We have a lot of untested kids."
Seniors Mandell Marsh and Jeff Burrows will be counted on to provide offense, and former reliever Jesse Moore, a junior, will lead the pitchers.
Lansdowne (a 3A runner-up) is Perry Hall's biggest threat, returning most of its pitching from a 16-5 13th-ranked team, including seniors Josh Benson, Randy Musgrove (the county's top hitter) and Brian Sullivan. Catcher Rob Parsons and shortstop Danny Muller add to a potent lineup.
Patapsco (15-4 last year) was ranked No. 14 after losing its 2A state semifinal to Perryville, and returns five starters.
The Patriots are strong up the middle with Chris Mirabile (pitcher), Daryl Esteppe (catcher) and Jerry Vecchioni (shortstop). Regional finalist Overlea, Hereford and possibly 0` Towson could challenge.
Other potential contenders are Dulaney, Dundalk and Randallstown.
The MSA has established new divisions, with Patterson and Southern competing in the city public school's Gamper Conference. Joining Patterson in the conference's Lumsden Division are City, Edmondson, Forest Park, Lake Clifton, Mervo and Poly, while Southern competes in the Parker Division with Carver, Dunbar, Douglass, Northern, Northwestern and Walbrook.
Patterson graduated its five top hurlers, but returns senior outfielder John Sauer (.500, 20 RBI), who stole 19 bases and scored 31 runs with four home runs.
Poly, led by junior shortstop/pitcher Charles Wilhelm (.414, 16 RBI), will try to catch Patterson. Southwestern, led by senior Milton Nichols (.410, 30 RBI) and sophomore Terrence Wheeler (.500, 20 RBI), should challenge Parker Division-favorite
McDonogh will contend for the Armstrong A Division title against Curley, Calvert Hall, Loyola, Gilman, Gibbons, Mount St. Joseph and Spalding.
The MSA's A Division has some heavy hitters, with McDonogh's Kenny Cloude -- The Baltimore Sun's 1992 Player of the Year -- All-Metro Brian Matz (Calvert Hall) and second-team All-Met Buddy Edmond (Mount St. Joseph).
Cloude, a 6-foot-3, 180-pound senior, finished with a 13-1 record, 97 strikeouts and a 1.92 ERA. He struck out just five times in 100 at-bats and hit .429 with 35 RBI, 22 runs, 12 doubles and a triple.
Matz, a left-handed senior pitcher, went 8-2 with 79 strikeouts and a 3.02 ERA. He hit .444 with 12 doubles
and team-highs in both RBI (30) doubles (12). He had an on-base percentage of .553.
But the Gaels have gained Edmond, a senior transfer from Patterson, whom coach Dave Norton says "hit well over .400 at Patterson," and junior varsity MVP Steve Matcuk, a junior shortstop who hit .443 with 29 RBI. Matcuk also was 7-1 with an 80 mph fastball.
Calvert Hall, which graduated nine from last year's fourth-ranked MSA runner-up squad, has played in 10 of the past 12 title games.
The Cardinals (19-8 last year) were four-time champs before being dethroned by McDonogh. Coach Joe Binder makes a habit of molding young talent into champions.
Larry Marino (.423, 29 RBI), also a pitcher, joins Matz as a big batter for the Cardinals. Shortstop Josh Itzoe, outfielder Adam Roberts and infielder Tim Pilarski are also key players.
Gibbons, coming off of its worst year in coach Rod Cameron's nine-year tenure, could have its best team since winning the crown with a 19-3 record in 1985. Seven starters, including three of the four starting pitchers, are back from last year's 9-15 squad, led by left-hander Jeremy Shutt.
Gilman (16-5 last year) will be a threat with seniors Tim Elliott (.365, 25 RBI), a shortstop who stole 20 bases, and first baseman Dave Shapiro (.325). Loyola (13-10 last year) is another threat, stacked with a senior at every position and right-handers Tom Dugas and Joe Coates handling most of the pitching.
Competing in Division II of the Armstrong Conference with Mount Carmel, last year's C Conference champ, is Boys' Latin (5-5 last year), which returns all of its starters. Four-year starters J. Armiger (.478, 30 RBI) and Craig Connelly bolster a pitching staff led by junior Sean Gruver (4-1).